Being a tourist in my own country

In the summer of 2017 I went with my boyfriend to Portugal. I really wanted to show him my country and I really felt like a tourist there. We went to my hometown Paredes, Penafiel, Porto, Braga, Guimarães and the capital Lisbon.

 

PAREDES / PENAFIEL

The first place I took him to was my hometown, Paredes. Paredes is located 25 km away from Porto and it’s one of the youngest cities in the country.  We stayed at my place, he met my mom and my dog and they got along fine, even with the language barrier 🙂 I showed him my favorites places in my city, like the City Park or the town hall park – Parque Jose Guilherme. We had dinner with my friends and my mom several times.

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Then, I also took him to Penafiel, the city next to mine, which was the first place where I lived. I showed him the city center and the Sameiro church and we also went to the graveyard so that he could ‘meet’ my father too.


 

BRAGA

The next stop was Braga, in the north. The city was the European Youth Capital in 2012. It is host to the archdiocese, the oldest in Portugal. Braga is a major hub for inland Northern Portugal.

We had lunch there in an amazing typical restaurant and we visited the old city center. We also went up to Bom Jesus de Braga. The Sanctuary is a notable example of pilgrimage site with a monumental, Baroque stairway that climbs 116 meters. It is an important tourist attraction of Braga.

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At the end, we found a cheap place where we bought a lot of typical Portuguese pastry, like pasteis de nata, bolos de arroz and bolas de berlim and Alejandro loved it.


 

GUIMARAES

In the same day we went to Braga we also went to Guimarães. We visited the cute little streets and then we went inside the Guimarães Castle with the statue of Afonso Henriques, the first kind of Portugal. Emblematic of the medieval Portuguese castle, Guimarães is associated with the origins of the Portuguese nation. It was built under the orders of Mumadona Dias in the 10th century to defend the monastery from attacks by Moors and Norsemen.

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We also stopped in Praça de Santiago and Largo da Oliveira, that are two of the most popular squares with open air cafes and restaurants, which are an ideal stopping point for lunch or a coffee.


 

PORTO

Facts about the city:

Porto is known for its beautiful bridges. Often the city is called as “City of Bridges” having 6 iconic bridges making the city more attractive. These bridges start from Porto and go a long way to connect to another city Vila Nova de Gaia.

Porto is where Port (Fortified Wine, usually strong and red in color) comes from. An interesting fact is that Porto has a something called Vintage year when a special vintage port is made; this is a classy year with best climate condition for port making. There’s a lot of cellars in the city that tourists can visit and taste the wine.

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We also visited Porto, of course. The city that owns my heart and forever will. The city where I studied and worked for the last years before moving to Malta. We went for a tour inside Sandeman, the wine cellars where I used to work as a tour guide and then we had dinner with my old co-workers.

We visited Aliados (the main square of the city, where the Town Hall is located) and then we went down to the Ribeira. The Ribeira spreads alongside the Douro river and used to be a center of intense commercial and manufacturing activity since the Middle Ages. In 1491 the buildings around the square were destroyed in a fire, and the houses were rebuilt with arcades in their ground floors. The square was enclosed by the medieval walls (Muralhas Fernandinas) of Porto. These walls were torned down in 1821, opening the square to the river. Nowadays the Ribeira Square is a favorite spot for tourists.

From the Ribeira we can see the D. Luís I Bridge, a double-deck metal arch bridge that spans the River Douro between the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. At its construction, its 172 meters span was the longest of its type in the world. This bridge is one of the most recognized symbols of Porto.

Coming up again from the Ribeira, we stopped at the Se (Porto Cathedral), which is one of the city’s oldest monuments and one of the most important local Romanesque monuments. The beginning of its construction dates from the first half of the twelfth century, and continued until the beginning of the thirteenth century.

We also saw the Clerigos Tower, that can be seen from various points of the city and is one of its most characteristic symbols. The church was built for the Brotherhood of the Clérigos (Clergy) by Nicolau Nasoni, an Italian architect and painter who left an extense work in the north of Portugal during the 18th century. Construction of the church began in 1732 and was finished around 1750. After that, we strolled down the Cedofeita street, a commercial area.

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After we went to see the  Jardins do Palacio de Cristal. These gardens are a delightful green space, from which you can enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the Douro River and the sea. These romantic gardens were designed in the 1860s by Émile David, to involve the then Crystal Palace, replaced by the Rosa Mota Pavilion in the 1950s.

We also found a place with Venezuelan food and Alejandro went crazy. I could finally try the tequenos. For the last night in the North, we stayed in Porto in my best friend Soraya’s place. We had dinner there with my friends before saying goodbye. It was so nice to see them again!


 

LISBON

Facts about the city:

Lisbon is the oldest city in Western Europe, even predating capitals such as Rome, Paris and London.

The Vasco da Gama bridge is the longest bridge in Europe, measuring 17 km.

Pasteis de nata are a Lisbon delicacy. The sweet custard tart is reproduced throughout the city, but according to locals there is only one place to get them: Casa Pastéis de Belém was the very first bakery to sell the pastry and is still open today.

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Last stop was the capital, Lisbon. I forgot how nice is the capital of my country! We stayed in the house of a Brazilian couple, friends of Alejandro from Dublin. We visited the main tourist places.

The first was the São Jorge Castle, a Moorish castle occupying a commanding hilltop overlooking the historic center of Lisbon. The strongly fortified citadel dates from medieval period of Portuguese history, and is one of the main tourist sites of Lisbon.

We then went to the National Pantheon, created in 1836, intended to honor and perpetuate the memory of Portuguese citizens who have distinguished themselves for services rendered to the country, in the exercise of high public office, high military services, in the expansion of Portuguese culture, in literary, scientific and artistic creation or in the defense of values of civilization, for the dignification of the human person and the cause of freedom. There are the remainings of important Portuguese people like Almeida Garrett, Amália Rodrigues, Eusebio, etc.

We visited Jerónimos Monastery, a former monastery that was secularized on 28 December 1833. This monastery is one of the most prominent examples of the Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline style of architecture in Lisbon. Close to this monastery, there’s the statue of Padrao dos Descobrimentos. Located along the river where ships departed to explore and trade with India and Orient, the monument celebrates the Portuguese Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries.

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Also in this area, there’s the Torre de Belem. Belém Tower is a fortified tower that played a significant role it played in the Portuguese maritime discoveries. The tower was commissioned by King John II to be part of a defense system of the city. It was built in the early 16th century and is a prominent example of the Portuguese Manueline style. The tower was built in the middle of the Tejo river in a small island and now sits near the shore because the river was redirected after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake.

We also visited some typical neighborhoods like  Bairro Alto, Chiado and Alfama. We ended our walk in Praca do Comercio, the main square of the city. The Praça do Comércio is still commonly known as Terreiro do Paço, the name it used to have until it was destroyed by the great 1755 Lisbon earthquake. After the earthquake, the square was completely remodeled. Opening towards Augusta Street, which links the square with the other traditional Lisbon square, the Rossio, the original project by Eugénio dos Santos planned a triumphal arch, completed in 1873. This arch, usually called the Arco da Rua Augusta, was designed by Veríssimo da Costa.

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We took the Eletrico 28, that passes in all the nice spots of the city. I loved to see all the view points. I also got to see one of my best friends that now lives in Lisbon and finally got to meet her baby, my nephew 🙂 For the last night, we had dinner with Alejandro’s friends in a Mexican restaurant. This trip was amazing and I was very very happy so be able to let Alejandro see my country and meet my family and friends 🙂

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